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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
Attack on assembly 'time-wasting'
Rhodri Morgan addresses AMs in the Senedd
The Senedd building opened for debate on 1 March, 2006
Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas has strongly condemned "horrendous time-wasting" at the Welsh assembly.

He added it was "exasperating" the full assembly sat only two afternoons a week, and then often finished early.

But deputy presiding officer Dr John Marek said his remarks would provide ammunition for critics of devolution.

The assembly government said reforms after next year's election would make a "very different" body, and AMs were already looking at how to make changes.

AMs gave a mixed response but business minister Jane Hutt said they had "done very well for the last seven years".

Lord Elis-Thomas
We've got a wonderful chamber, the public come there to look at us... and yet it's very difficult to point out anything that has happened recently
Dafydd Elis-Thomas

The Plaid Cymru AM also criticised what he called a civil service closed shop which prevented many of his constituents in Meirionnydd Nant Conwy from applying for a job with the Cardiff Bay body.

He told BBC One Wales' Politics Show that his "very strong views on the way our processes can be improved" were aimed at a review of the way the assembly is run.

"I think regional committees are a complete waste of time," he said.

"I think the way subject committees are structured does not allow us to have an opportunity to question ministers properly or to pursue policy areas properly."

He also said he was ready to abandon the assembly's "family-friendly" hours.

"After all, it would mean sitting after 6 o'clock only two nights a week and I think the people of Wales would expect us to do that - not every night, but some nights.

We need to stop having pointless debates on things like committee reports which don't have a serious outcome
Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru

"We sit in plenary for two half-days a week and we often finish early and I find this absolutely exasperating," he said.

"We've got a wonderful chamber, the public come there to look at us and yet it's very difficult to point out anything that has happened recently."

He said ministers often "got away with it" and he accused some fellow AMs of lacking the appetite for change to be more efficient.

He went on: "And we are not really loved out there by the Welsh public, they are not getting value for money and therefore we need to do something about it."

In a statement, the assembly government said he was "quite right" to point out that the reforms it was making through the new Government of Wales Bill would mean a "very different" assembly after the 2007 election.

"Devolution has already created a completely new level of engagement between people and politicians in Wales, one that will only be enhanced by the new powers proposed in this legislation," it said.

Deputy presiding officer Dr John Marek said he feared the presiding officer's comments would simply feed the prejudices of the opponents of devolution.

Dr Marek also raised doubts whether there were enough AMs in Cardiff Bay to allow any backbenchers to be independent of their own party groups - particularly when that party was in government.

He said that equating the way things work in the assembly to Westminster was a mistake.

Other AMs gave a mixed response to Lord Elis-Thomas' views.

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, who chairs the education committee, gave his support, although he said the committees "have done some valid work over the last few years".

But business minister Ms Hutt said: "He's quite right to say that we have to look at how we should be managing business.

"But I think we have done very well for the last seven years. We have 60 members, we have seven subject committees we have business Tuesdays to Thursdays, our members are hard at it."

Tory AM Glyn Davies said: "It's a good wake-up call - all 60 of us need to look at ways we can take the opportunity...to connect more with the Welsh public."

Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones added: "We have to use the committee time more effectively to scrutinise ministers.

"We need to stop having pointless debates on things like committee reports which don't have a serious outcome."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
"I think regional committees are a complete waste of time"


"I believe the time is now right for us to reform this place"



SEE ALSO:
MPs opt for return to late hours
27 Jan 05 |  UK Politics
In Pictures: New assembly chamber
21 Sep 05 |  In Pictures


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